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Candide: Thoughts of Voltaire on Optimism, Philosophy and “The Other”
“Candide or Optimism”; with its main character Candide constantly roaming around the world carrying questions of good and evil, and through the lines of the book take place the thoughts of criticism that flow through the river of philosophy on the terrain of satire, is a short novel of François-Marie Arouet or best known as “Voltaire”, first published in 1759. At the beginning of the novel, after a short overview of the main characters; Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, the Baroness, the Baron’s daughter Cunégonde, naïve Candide and Candide’s mentor philosopher Pangloss, Voltaire exiles Candide from his hometown and starts the series of adventures; and confronts Candide with the world and the others outside the castle of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh that he lived in. Through the adventures, while Candide inquires the philosophical terms of good and the best, Voltaire criticizes Europeans, religion, optimism, human’s lack of satisfaction and many other subjects that is relevant through the 18th century to today’s world, via the events that Candide experienced throughout the story. In other words; Voltaire harmonizes philosophy, criticism and encountering with “the other” from the eyes of naïve Candide, the main character that darts himself to the adventures in the name of love that he feels for Cunégonde and meets with people around the world with his deep curiosity. So, in this essay; notions of philosophy, optimism and the approach to “the other” of Voltaire, embodied in the main character Candide, are going to be the subject of discussion.
Firstly, to start with notions of philosophy and optimism, the character Pangloss is the key point. Pangloss’ philosophy of optimism resembles the notions of German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, as Leibniz stated that “I laid it down that God, having chosen the most perfect of all possible worlds, had been prompted by his wisdom to permit the evil which was bound up with it, but which still did not prevent this world from being, all things considered, the best that could be chosen.” (Leibniz, 67), while Pangloss’ argument differs very slightly, as he stated these: “For, everything having been made for a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose” (Voltaire, 4) and “The Fall of man and the curse entered necessarily into the scheme of the best of all possible worlds.” (14). So, Pangloss’ pure optimism influenced his tutee; Candide, and this optimism creates the basis of Candide’s naivety. Voltaire carried Candide’s optimism and naivety through the limit of stupidity and used Candide and Pangloss to satirize Leibniz’s optimistic ideas by exaggerating it, as Pangloss’ blind optimism went as far as to describe the spread of syphilis as “As indispensable part of the best of all worlds, a necessary ingredient.”(11-12) Voltaire’s satire is not just limited with the optimistic philosophy;...